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We learned in Bit #4 that self-criticism activates our age-old threat system of survival – the fight-flight-freeze-response – as if we were criticized or threatened from outside. We either fight ourselves, flee in isolation, or freeze by getting stuck in self-absorbing rumination.

The practice of self-compassion makes a complete opposite to all these three responses. 

Instead of self-criticism, we say kind things to ourselves. 

Instead of isolation in shame, we realize that we all fail sometimes. Everyone is imperfect, all over the world – feeling inadequate belongs to the common humanity. 

And instead of getting caught up in self-absorbed rumination about not being good enough, we practice being mindful of the feelings inside and accept that life is tough. This can unlock the "freeze mode" of dwelling on our shortcomings. This is why self-compassion is called the best antidote to shame and to shame’s tendency to make us feel lonely and separated from the world.

The practice of self-compassion gives us access to the soothing system's calming and connecting effect. By placing your hand on your heart, or stroking your arm, the tend-and-befriend hormone oxytocin gets activated. We help ourselves to lower the stress levels which in turn makes us both connect to other people and think more clearly – and thus make better decisions.

Your turn
Watch this 2-minute YouTube clip. What are Kristin Neff’s examples of practicing self-compassion?